Thoughts on politics, religion, violence, inequality, social control, change, and random other things from an autonomous, analytical, adopted, abolitionist, anarchist who likes the letter A

Archive for August, 2012

Things You Might Have Missed

August 29, 2012 By: Mel Category: Misc

Experts Agree Meese is a PigMy friend Mark, also one of the founders of the punk collective I’m in, wrote this article comparing the Russian government’s reaction to Pussy Riot to the reaction Positive Force got for their “Meese is a Pig” postering back in the day.

I know I should say something about this “anarchist” plot to kill the president. But what can I say except that “anarchist militia” is not a phrase I ever want to hear again.

Here is a really good Radio Project cast on prison and police unions and how they affect the criminal (in)justice system. Also, if you missed the AlJazeera show on Baltimore and the drug war, it is worth a watch.

Taxi drivers in DC are constantly getting screwed. Now the DC government is requiring them to install some bullshit advertising screens that are going to bring a windfall to VeriFone in a very sketchy deal. What is that you say about government being a control on private corporations?

“Don’t roof rack me, bro”  Not the slogan I would have gone with at the RNC, but at least it isn’t “Whose streets. Our streets.”

Great piece from Laurie Penny about rape. Goes nicely with the conversation we were having about focusing on strangers when it comes to abuse.

The NAACP is having a grand love affair with Wells Fargo. This article is about Wells’s involvement in predatory loans and foreclosures. But lets not forget their investments in private prisons.

And as long as we are on the subject of private prisons, I wonder how much Mitt Romney made exactly? But not to worry, Obama is doing his part to make sure private prisons are raking in the bucks also.

This is not supposed to be comedy, but Assange and Correa: Pied Pipers of Anarchy is about the funniest thing I have read this week.

P.S. Weddings are ridiculous.

P.P.S. So are cops. WTF.

Obey or Pay…Unless

August 26, 2012 By: Mel Category: Core, Stratification

Ed Rooney from Ferris Bueller's Day OffI came across this truancy scare video the other day. The video talks about how truancy leads to dropping out and how dropping out leads to a “lifelong inability to find gainful employment (and) make a meaningful life.” It has kids talking about how they were rebellious (the horror). They talk about abusing drugs, about violent boyfriends, about being homeless.

And then there is this asshat. She’s a clinical psychologist who is trying to scare twenty-somethings into getting serious about their lives. Apparently, if you don’t get your shit together by the time you are 25, you will be playing catch-up forever. And by playing catch-up she means that your career, house, spouse, children, dog, and picket fence will be a few pottery barn items short of perfect.

Did you get the message everyone? Are you clear on what success looks like? Are you fully convinced that education overcomes everything, as the woman in the truancy video claims? Oh, and about that 50% of recent grads who are unemployed or underemployed. No need to worry about that, says the asshat, you just focus on getting yourself into that other 50%. Fuck those other people.

We are inundated with messages every day about how we as individuals can end up on top (or at least not on the bottom) of this big, hot mess we are in. We are told that, if you do the right thing, you will be rewarded. Maybe, as in the case of that video, some people with their hearts in generally the right place will acknowledge that there are social circumstances that lead people to “end up” in the criminal (in)justice system.

People don’t just end up in prison. They are targeted. You will not be rewarded for doing the right thing. In fact, you will generally suffer for it. You might be rewarded for obeying the rules, depending on who you are. Or maybe, if you just stay in your place and don’t raise too much hell, people won’t actively go after you. You might be congratulated if you define success as some formerly truant kid going back to school with a desire to join the Coast Guard. (Hey, now instead of going to jail, that kid can spend his life putting drug runners and immigrants in prison. Success!)

As someone who made truancy into something of an art form, when I first watched the video I just wanted to write a post telling people how much bullshit school is and to fuck up all they want. I did not skip school because I was suffering outside of school. I skipped school because I was suffering in it. It was boring and authoritarian and I was not going to waste any more precious minutes of my life in that place. I don’t regret for one minute any day that I ditched for the beach. If I had to do it all over again, I would have been absent all 45 days that one quarter instead of just 43.

Despite skipping school, getting kicked out, and generally doing my best to fuck up as much as possible, I’m not in prison. I’ve managed to support myself since I was seventeen. I haven’t killed anybody or overdosed on heroin.

Do you know why I am not in prison? I’m not in prison because, when I was caught stealing or drinking or smoking or… (well let me keep some secrets), the police were usually not called. Even when they were called, I never saw the inside of a police station. At worst, they called my parents. Usually, they didn’t even do that.

These kids are not “ending up” in prison because they have a bad home life and are not staying in school. They are ending up in prison because the criminal (in)justice system targets them in ways that it never targeted me. Our schools are filled with cops just itching to get more fodder for the prisons/work camps/torture chambers. They are arresting kids for throwing paper airplanes and six-year-olds for tantrums.

Some of us can fuck up quite a bit and still make a reasonably comfortable life. Some of us can spend a few decades with whiskey and cocaine and still go to an ivy league school and become president. And some of us can get busted one time with a few joints and have the rest of our lives ruined for it.

The grand trick is that we pretend like there are rules that apply to everyone. But they don’t. Uber-privileged people ignore the rules and are fine. Marginalized people get fucked even when they obey them. The rest of us are impregnated with fear of fucking up and misdirected into pursuing some illusory goal of personal achievement instead of focusing on the obedience training system that funnels us into our proper place.

I can’t in good conscience tell people to just go forth and fuck up. Some of us don’t have the luxury. But don’t respond to the unemployability of dropouts with criminal records by making some half-assed attempt to get some of them back into the funnel. Question what the hell is going on with our criminal (in)justice system. Ask why people without alphabet soup at the end of their names can’t make a living. Get pissed that half the people with alphabet soup at the end of their names can’t even get work.

Disobey as much as you possibly can.  The rules were not made for your benefit.

Beware of Strange Men on Airplanes

August 26, 2012 By: Mel Category: Conflict, Core, Sex, Stratification

It seems that Virgin airlines has a policy that unaccompanied children cannot sit next to men on their airplanes. An Australian man, who was assigned a seat next to two boys he did not know, was asked to switch seats with a woman. Pissed off about being treated like a presumed predator, he blogged about it and complained to the airline that their policy was sexist.

Francois Tremblay thinks this guy is being an entitled douche and that is ridiculous to call this sexism. Meghan Murphy compares this man’s one moment of discomfort with the daily bullshit that women have to go through to avoid being harassed or worse. I get what they are saying, but the policy is still wrong. And the privilege that this guy is showing isn’t the one they think it is.

Gender essentialism is our enemy. It is not o.k. to base policies on gender essentialist notions, regardless of who is negatively affected. I know what you are thinking. But Mel, men are the ones who commit most violence. As Murphy cites in her article, 90% of child sex offenders are men. Ok. But do you know what else that very same article states? 70 – 90% of child sex offenders are known to the child.

In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, most child abusers are parents. And about half of the perpetrators of abuse and neglect are women. Granted, women are more often caregivers. And there is no telling what bullshit some states are calling neglect. But the fact remains that it would be more logical for the airline to separate kids from their parents if they really wanted to stop abuse.

But we would never do such a thing. Because one of the things that perpetuates child abuse is the idea that parents can do whatever they want to their children. “I brought you into this world. I can take you out of it.” It seems we are more likely to have irrational policies on airplanes than to intervene when we see a parent abusing their child – verbally or physically.

And do you know what else perpetuates rape and sexual abuse? The idea that rapists are strangers who crawl into your window and hold a gun to your head does. It is the reason why so many rapists think they are not rapists – despite the fact that they have no concept of consent and no problem using coercion, violence, drugs… Cause I mean hey, it was a girl I was on a date with so it can’t be rape.

This Australian guy is showing his privilege. But the privilege that he is showing isn’t that he is not in constant fear of being harassed. It is that he is a white guy, an emergency service worker no less, and accustomed to being cast in the role of hero. If he were black or Arab then being cast as the evil predator wouldn’t have come as much of a shock. It is standard operating procedure.

What if he had been black? What if he was Arab or Muslim? What if he was trans? How would those kids (and the rest of the people on that airplane) have processed that move? And how did two boys, who will soon grow up to be men, process the idea that in a few years they will be too scary to sit next to children?

We can’t end sexism by being gender essentialist. We can’t end racism by ignoring how race affects the way people are perceived. We aren’t going to raise healthy men by demonstrating to boys that they must be avoided when they grow up. We aren’t going to end abuse – sexual or otherwise – by focusing on the few incidents that are perpetrated by strangers and allowing people to operate under the convenient illusion that abusing the people that you know, and maybe even love, doesn’t really count.

Big Tents, Little Bridges, Vested Interests

August 24, 2012 By: Mel Category: Core, Seeking, Stratification

Bridge in the Japanese Garden in San FranciscoThis piece over at Cubik’s Rube reminded me of something I have been wanting to write about for a while. James is worried that the atheism+ idea that Blag Hag wrote about, and that I linked to on Wed, will be just one more divide in a movement that already has plenty of “splits, schisms, and dichotomies.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about big tents and factions since the group I was working with disintegrated. I think one of our core problems was that we tried to be too much of a big tent, or at least we went about it the wrong way. We knew that people in the group had different political views, theories of change, and ways of working. We had different backgrounds and life experiences – age, gender, race, class, religion. And rather than tackling those differences head on, we avoided talking about them. It was a huge mistake. And we ended up bleeding people anyway.

If you spend any time studying social justice movements from the past, you will soon learn how many of them fell apart or were co-opted because different groups sold each other out. White workers threw black workers under the bus with the unions. Black men threw women under the bus with voting. White women threw women of color under the bus with the feminist movement. Trans people got thrown under the bus by the GLB community. And on and on.

And in the end, while there may be a few beneficiaries here and there, we all lost. We find ourselves fighting the same battles all over again. Clearly, we can’t just all break off into little affinity groups that only think about ourselves. Our liberation is tied together in a very real way.

At the same time, whenever you get people together that have wildly different backgrounds, privileges, interests, communication styles… you are going to spend a huge amount of your time just keeping the group together. If you don’t spend the time, you will lose people. But if you spend all your time dealing with those things then people will feel like you aren’t moving toward your goal. And you will lose people that way too. Not to mention that the most marginalized people will be FUCKING EXHAUSTED trying to beat their heads against everyone else’s blindnesses.

And let us throw in another conundrum while we are at it. In that atheism+ post, she inserts a long quote about how many of the people who have gotten involved in the atheist movement are people who are not affected by any other type of prejudice/oppression. Being an atheist is the one little speed-bump on the otherwise smooth road of their lives. And they are wholly uninterested in having their other privileges questioned.

It is pretty much impossible for me to work with anyone who can only see their little corner of the universe and stay willfully blind about everything else. That doesn’t mean I won’t talk to them. I just can’t work with them. But as infuriating as it is for me to deal with people who can only see the one thing that affects them, it would be so much worse if they were coming in to white knight on some issue that they have not experienced and do not understand.

As (I believe it was) @manowax said at the Words, Beats & Life teach-in, “You have to have a vested interest to make change.” If atheist prejudice is the only thing that those people can see that they have a vested interest in, then that is what they should focus on. It is when something isn’t just an “issue” but your everyday life that you will see it through to the end. What choice do you have?

It reminds me of the beginning of this civil rights roundtable when they ask the participants to talk about why they are there. James Baldwin talks about being “born a negro.” Poitier says, “I became interested in civil rights struggle out of a necessity, to survive.” Belafonte talks about inheriting the struggle from his parents and grandparents. But Brando talks about Rosa Parks and Heston about talking to people at cocktail parties. Baldwin, Poitier, and Belafonte spent their lives struggling for their rights as human beings. Heston went back to cocktail parties and shilling for the NRA.

So there is nothing wrong with spending your time on the things that affect you, but somehow we also have to find ways to help people see how all the different struggles are connected. At the very least, we need to figure out how to stop throwing each other under the bus.

I should say here that I don’t think there is anything wrong with getting involved in a struggle where you are not the most affected. But I do think we need to understand how that struggle is connected to our own. We should be very careful about how we get involved and realistic about how dedicated we are to the issue, to the people, to the community. We can’t just drop in for a year and then skip out to a masters program, patting ourselves on the back the whole way.

So where does that leave us?

I think we should stop trying to have big tents. We need to focus on understanding our interests and how they connect. We should be building small, close-knit groups and a lot of little bridges.

In other words, stop seeing different experiences, backgrounds, and struggles as divisive and start seeing them as connective. Blag Hag is a bridge between feminists and atheists. Not all atheists are going to examine their other privileges. Not all feminists are going to examine theirs. But many will understand. That bridge is the beginning of how we are going to stop throwing each other under the bus.

We don’t need to worry that our movements will be divided. Large organizations only erase differences that shouldn’t be erased and grow hierarchies that shouldn’t be seeded. Successful social movements of the past have usually been made up of small, tight-knit communities and groups. They have been made up of people with long relationships and a lot of earned trust and respect. It wasn’t a thousand people who started the freedom rides. It was a handful. But that handful sparked something and others followed.

I think it is o.k. if we work on the issues that most affect us and with people that we like, understand, and respect. But we all have to take on the work of pushing to understand how the struggles are connected. And we have to make sure that we aren’t taking the easy way out by avoiding the uncomfortableness that comes from working with people whose cultures, experiences, marginalizations, etc. are difficult for us. We need to constantly be confronting ourselves.

The good news is that most of us are a part of many communities and struggles. So we can all be bridges. We can all work on the things that most affect us. We can all help each other to understand how those struggles are connected. We can work towards the same thing from different angles. Our work will be stronger for it.

Things You Might Have Missed

August 22, 2012 By: Mel Category: Misc

Sorry I dropped out for a few days. I was at the beach having the greatest shit show on earth. I actually brought my laptop. But who the hell was I kidding?

Shane Thayer is having a contest. Writing a blog post that links to his artwork enters you in a contest for a free painting. Check it out.

CD puts it so well “you’re better off having a badge and a rape conviction than a vagina and consent”

I stuck a foot into the atheist “movement” for half a second before I realized exactly what BlagHag is describing here.  See ya. Hope she has some luck turning that around.

Very useful post about class in movements.

If I had a dollar for every time some man condescended to me in this way…

And if you want to know one of the many reasons why I don’t watch the Olympics.

More abandoned library takeovers please.

Debtors prisons are back.

Despite my opinion about Che, I would not go so far as to compare him to Hitler. But it is an undeniable truth that power is mostly interested in retaining power.

I am thoroughly unimpressed with celebs taking up the Pussy Riot cause with risk-free theatrics. But then most of the support is bullshit.

And I think that is all my vodka-muddled brain can handle tonight.


Things You Might Have Missed

August 15, 2012 By: Mel Category: Misc

A nice, short piece on why War is Not Inevitable.  (See also why Pinker, with his claims about violence decreasing, is a jackass.)

And as long as we are on the subject of violence. Lakey makes some excellent points in his post about a diversity of tactics.

Check out the stats on suspensions of children who are black or have disabilities. A little upsetting no? Now read about children in Mississippi who are going to prison for dress code violations.  It’s o.k. though. Goldman Sachs is on the job and will be fixing our prisons right up.

Anal “examinations” for suspected gay people?!? Are you fucking kidding me?!?

A very interesting, if wrongheaded, essay on copyright, as obsessive people will spend years making things out of pure creative urge (like this). So people would write for free (as so many of us do), even novels. Still worth a read though.

I don’t know if you have any extra money laying around. But we have precious little local news coverage in DC and Homicide Watch has been doing a good job. They could use a little help.

If the stories about creepy/rapey guys on this blog don’t make you want to punch someone in the face, then the reddit convo that Db0 links to most certainly will. Wish I could say I had never encountered any of this.

We need a peaceful streets project in DC. Of course, despite orders to the contrary, DC cops will probably confiscate the cameras.

Men in Israel are so afraid to look at women they can now buy special blinders to wear when out and about. (May they all fall down manholes.) In Saudi Arabia they are going to hide the women in special factories in a special city. Here in the good ole USA, the MRAs have not been able to avoid looking upon, and being grossed out by, muscular women. (Don’t like women who could give you the ass beating you deserve eh? Kind of understandable really.)

I’m not sure how I missed this video on Shit Manarchists Say when it first came out, but this is hilarious. Not so hilarious are many of the comments. But then the comments do sorta reinforce the video.

Small Acts of Resistance

August 13, 2012 By: Mel Category: Seeking

I’m reading this book called Freedom’s Children right now. I only just started it, but it relates to all the thinking I have been doing about motivation and participation in activism. The author interviewed thirty people who were children or teenagers in the 1950s and 1960s.

Maybe one of the reasons we find it hard to stay motivated with activism is that sometimes we think too big. We don’t always have to be aiming for thousands at a march or the total collapse of the banking system tomorrow. We need a culture of resistance that can build over time.

When I read about nine-year-olds who poured water on soda fountain counters when faced with discrimination or teens who removed the “colored, do not sit beyond this board” signs from buses, I feel oddly motivated. All those small acts seeded something.

Focusing on small acts won’t just motivate us who are already involved. It might also help more people to get involved – people with limited time or resources. I’m not talking about buying some greenwashed product. I mean small acts that challenge the system, but that are part of everyday life and don’t require spending 3 hours at a meeting every week.

More importantly, I love that this book focuses on young people, often very young people. One of the ways we fall down horribly in the activist community is making spaces unwelcoming for people with kids, or just impossible for caregivers to participate. That’s not just a problem because we lose those caregivers. It is also a problem because we lose those kids.

The first person to refuse to give up her seat was not Rosa Parks. It was a fifteen year old named Claudette Colvin. There was a children’s crusade where elementary schoolers marched and were firehosed and attacked by dogs. Imagine the power behind that and imagine what kind of person you become when you are in the struggle starting at eight or nine.

I’m not sure exactly how this plays out in the day to day – how my behavior needs to change. But I am definitely going to start paying more attention to small acts and small people.


Die Chivalry Die

August 10, 2012 By: Mel Category: Stratification

Maidens that I rescued on the InternetYou know that whole “women and children first” thing, where ship captains are supposed to stoically go down with the boat? Someone actually did a study of shipwrecks. Turns out – not so much.

In examining 18 shipping disasters dating to the 1850s, the economists found little evidence that men were inclined to surrender their survival advantage. Overall, the survival rate was 61% for crew members, 44% for captains, 37% for male passengers, 27% for women and 15% for children…For the most part, the Swedish study found that women faced worse survival rates aboard British vessels than those flagged by other nations. Female passengers aboard doomed English ships saw their survival rates drop almost 10%

So much for that British stoicism. Ouch.

The study was “based on the premise that crew members and male passengers stood the greatest chance of survival in a free-for-all ship evacuation, owing to greater strength and knowledge of the vessel.” So we can assume that, if women were actually captains or crew, their survival rate would have been much higher.

Chivalry is about who has access to knowledge, skills, resources, and power. No need for us women to know how to take care of ourselves. We’ll just let the men decide who gets to survive and who doesn’t. How’s that working out for you, 73% of women who died in those shipwrecks?

Ladies, if you are going to get on a boat, learn how to operate it yourself. You better at least know where the damn lifeboats are.

That story got me thinking about a Chappelle bit that has always really chapped my ass.

Let’s recap shall we? All women are materialistic. They just want fancy cars and shit. The only thing men want out of life is women – more specifically, someone to fuck and make them a sandwich. And women killed chivalry by forgetting how beautiful we are, cause clearly our role is to look purdy in the hopes that some dick with a fancy car will come and take care of us be so kind as to let us suck his dick and make him sandwiches.

Oh Dave. I love you, but sometimes you are a real ass. You should stick with social observations about racism cause you suck on sexism.

For the record. I hate cars. I don’t give a rats ass how nice yours is or if you have one at all. In fact, if you tell me you drive a ridiculously expensive car, my first thought is going to be, “wonder who was swindled, killed, raped, or tortured for that.” I do not need anyone to pay my bills. I’m quite capable of opening jars without fainting from exhaustion or walking through puddles without melting.

Perhaps some of the women who like nice cars are really just acting on the knowledge that, for too many women, a man with resources is the best opportunity they have in this fucked up world. Perhaps some of those men who buy nice cars to impress women think they have nothing to offer but a wallet and a dick. Or maybe some men really like knowing that their woman literally cannot survive without them.

Dependency makes for fucked up relationships.

I wish Chappelle was right. I wish women had killed chivalry. Sadly, we have not. But we should. We should bury it at sea with all those dead women and children.

All that said, I reserve the right to try and get dudes to kill bugs for me. In fact, I have one of these nasty fuckers in my apartment right now.  Ewwwwww. A little help?

Things You Might Have Missed

August 08, 2012 By: Mel Category: Misc

I can’t believe they are still kicking girls out of school for being pregnant. Do they think it is contagious? Do we need some sex ed for school administration?

A map tracking unarmed people of color killed by authority figures. Interesting that the Western states have no killings. I realize Utah is not exactly filled with POC, but New Mexico is. It isn’t exactly unfriendly to firearms either. No gun permit required. The not-so-wild west?

Have I mentioned how much I love the blog Man Boobz? It has helped me discover another good thing about being over 30. (The other is that I have it under good authority that I am too old to ever be a hipster.)

If you run into Bono, please punch him in the face for me. I mean WTF!

Even if you think that Papa Walton deserved his riches – how is it o.k. that his heirs, by some accident of birth, own more wealth than the bottom 40% of Americans.

Speaking of Walmart, did you hear about the couple who stole some lube and then proceeded to get in on in front of their fellow Walmart shoppers? I guess that would make shopping a little less intolerable, except for that whole felony thing.

And when you are done at Walmart, you can just hop over to Chick-Fil-A. I think my favorite yelp review is the one debating whether to “shove my lady-tongue into some Chick-Fil-A or some fresh wet puss.”

And now I will class it up a bit with a poem I cam across this weekend by Gwendolyn Brooks. Says a lot about willful ignorance.

And if sun come
How shall we greet him?
Shall we not dread him,
Shall we not fear him
After so lengthy a
Session with shade?


Though we have wept for him,
Though we have prayed
All through the night-years—
What if we wake one shimmering morning to
Hear the fierce hammering
Of his firm knuckles
Hard on the door?


Shall we not shudder?—
Shall we not flee
Into the shelter, the dear thick shelter
Of the familiar
Propitious haze?


Sweet is it, sweet is it
To sleep in the coolness
Of snug unawareness.


The dark hangs heavily
Over the eyes.



Is the Media Liberal?

August 06, 2012 By: Mel Category: Core, Politics

A friend of mine just posted this nifty graphic showing how much more often the media quotes the GOP. But I’m not sure that it says much.

If conservative is defined as wanting to live by religious doctrine or being anti-abortion, then the media is not particularly conservative. If conservative is defined as supporting current institutions of privilege, power, and domination, then the media is conservative as hell.

If liberal is defined as wanting fundamental changes and real social justice, then the media is not liberal. If liberal is defined as being classist, elitist, and status-seeking, then the media is liberal as hell.

When people who identify as conservatives call someone a liberal what they often really mean is that they are classist and arrogant – which many liberals are. When people who identify as liberal call someone a conservative, what they often really mean is that they are sexist and white supremacist – which many conservatives are.

But you can find classism, arrogance, sexism, white supremacy and every other wrongheaded, hierarchical view among people who identify as liberal or conservative or anything else. You’ll also find people who identify as liberals who are not arrogant and people who identify as conservatives who are not white supremacist.

As far as I’m concerned, both “liberals” and “conservatives” are fundamentally conservative. Is the mainstream media radical? Hell no.